This interesting and unusual name, introduced after the 1066 Conquest by William 1, is the result of the Anglicization of the Norman, Old French, word "arblaster" or "arbalestier", meaning a crossbowman. The derivation is from the Latin "arcuballistarius", a compound of "arcus", bow, and "ballista", a catapult. The name was used both as an occupational name for a soldier trained to use one of these weapons, and as a term denoting the category of a feudal tenant in sergeantry, that is, holding their lands in return for providing armed service with a crossbow. Job-descriptive surnames originally denoted the actual occupation of the namebearer, and later became hereditary.The surname is distinguished by being first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1066 (see below), and the development since then has included: Richard le Arbelaster (1198, Rutland), and Ralph Alebaster (circa 1200, Essex). The modern form include: Alabaster, Alabastar, Albisser and Arblaster. An interesting namebearer, recorded in the "Dictionary of National Biography", was William Alabaster (1567 - 1646), who was a famous Latin Scholar and Chaplain to the Earl of Essex during his attack on Cadiz in 1596. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robertus Arbalistarius, which was dated 1086, in the Domesday Book, during the reign of King William 1, known as "The Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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